PARIS IN February means one thing: the Rétromobile Classic Car Show and for the host nation, 2018 saw the birthday celebrations for Citroen, Renault and Peugeot.
Citroen celebrated the 70th anniversary of the diminutive 2CV and the 50th birthday of the Méhari.
In 1939 250 pre-production Citroen 2CVs were ready for their debut at the 1939 Paris Motorshow, which was cancelled due to the outbreak of WWII. Only four of the ’39 show cars survived, including the one on display, after the rest were voluntarily destroyed or hidden.
The 2CV finally made its world launch at the 1948 Paris Motorshow and while some laughed at its odd-ball shape, others applauded its simplicity, lightness, agility, comfort and versatility.
Within days of its launch the 2CV Citroen showrooms were being overrun by buyers, proving its designers were on to something.
Head of Citroen design at the time, André Lefebvre, added many new firsttime technologies to the 2CV including front wheel drive, soft and long travel suspension and an air cooled two cylinder engine.
The 2CV was an instant hit and by 1990 when production ended more than 5.1 million 2CVs were sold. Today, the 2CV, affectionately called the ‘Deuche’ in French, remains an icon of automotive history, capturing the interest of collectors from around the world.
The other Citroen that was cause for celebration was the lesser known Méhari, that broke cover in May 1968.
The Méhari was a leisure vehicle with a lightweight plastic body that made it immune to corrosion and able to be washed top to bottom with just a hose. Its design challenged the traditional thinking of cabriolet bodies at the time.
Like the 2CV the Méhari was another Citroen success and became a symbol of a simple, carefree life. The Méhari had a film career and took part in the Liège-Dakar-Liège rally in 1969 and the Paris-Kabul-Paris rally in 1970.
After 20 years production ceased with over 145,000 Méharis were sold.
Renault, founded in 1898 by Luis Renault, and celebrating its 120th anniversary, displayed over 20 significant models. Included were a 1898 Type A (Renault's first vehicle), a type AG1 taxi from 1910, a 1947 4CV (first vehicle to sell more than one million units) and an R8 Gordini from 1964. Gordinis proved successful in racing and rallying around the world. Also shown was a 1984 Espace, the people-mover genre pioneer and a 1992 Twingo mini-car
Not to be outdone, Peugeot celebrated the 203's birthday; it launched at the 1947 Paris Motorshow and remained in production until 1960. This rugged French car became a household name after it won the inaugural Australian Redex Rally in 1953.
Another Pug with an excellent rally pedigree was the Pininfarina designed 504 which was celebrating its 50th year at Retromobile. The 504, was assembled locally in Heidelberg, Victoria, in the late 70s and globally racked up more than three million total sales.